Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 15, 2016

How to Save a Life – Bystander CPR

Filed under: Education,Preparedness and Response,Public Health & Medical Care — by Christopher Bellavita on February 15, 2016

[This post was written by Frank Leeb]

Earlier this morning, I was on the elliptical at the gym in my home town where I proudly serve as a volunteer firefighter. Like every call for help in my community, I received a text notification on my cell phone. This is the method used to notify volunteer firefighters to respond to calls for help. This particular text notification was for a reported person in cardiac arrest. I recognized the street address to be fairly close to the gym. I jumped off the elliptical, grabbed my belongings and hurried from the gym to the home address of the cardiac arrest. I arrive quickly; the home is less than one mile from the gym.

The paid district paramedic who is hired to quickly respond in a first responder vehicle was already on scene, along with one of the local police officers. They had assessed the scene and begun working on the patient – a young man – who was in arrest.  Work continued feverishly on the patient and the ambulance with additional help soon arrived. The patient was packaged and transported to the hospital where he is expected to survive.

Due to the heroic actions already in progress upon my arrival, I did not contribute much to the life saving efforts that occurred, however the fact that I was nearby and notified as a volunteer firefighter underscores the value that notification systems can have. I was notified because I was in the town where I am a firefighter. However, what if I were in a neighboring town? I would not have been notified that help was needed and therefore would have been unable to respond and possibly make a life saving difference.

This cardiac arrest call occurred less than 12 hours after I received my initial approval on my [Naval Postgraduate School] master’s thesis. Coincidentally, my thesis is about saving victims from cardiac arrest. The best way to save victims of cardiac arrest is to provide the victim with quick CPR. When a patient receives CPR in less than four minutes, the odds of survival are great; after four minutes the odds of survival quickly diminish. However, it is difficult for any response agency to arrive and begin CPR in under four minutes from the time a person stops breathing.

This is why the premise of my thesis research was on promoting and increasing bystander CPR. Bystanders as the “first” first responders have the greatest opportunity to perform CPR within the short four minute window of opportunity. There are many people trained in CPR throughout our communities. Many of them are members of the fire department. When these members are out of their town, they are out also out of their response areas, and therefore would not be notified if someone needed CPR.  Through mutual aid agreements and integrating existing technology, these barriers can be easily overcome and lives can be saved.

Additionally, the public can make a enormous difference. Today, bystander CPR consists of compression only. There is no longer the mouth to mouth component that prevented many bystanders from performing CPR in the past. Studies have shown that when a bystander performs CPR prior to the arrival of first responders, survival dramatically increases.

It is critical to spread the word:

  • Bystander CPR saves lives
  • 15 percent of all deaths in the U.S. occur from sudden cardiac arrest
  • Hands only CPR can be learned in minutes
  • More than half of all cardiac arrests occur at home, the life you save is likely to be a family member or other loved one.
  • Send someone to find the closest automated external defibrillator (AED)
  • Take 1 minute and 32 seconds to learn CPR – watch this video:

June 3, 2015

Community Policing at Work in Boston

Obviously, there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the Boston Police and FBI shooting of a suspected ISIS sympathizer. Recent reporting indicates he and co-conspirators were planning on attacking Boston police personnel, after discarding an earlier plot to behead anti-Islam political activist Pamela Geller.

Putting aside the details of a quickly evolving case (the specifics of which will likely take some time to become clear and final), what I found interesting about today’s development’s was the vivid dividends of Boston Police’s community outreach efforts.

Police showed a surveillance video of the shooting to Boston-area religious leaders Wednesday. They said in a news conference that they did not see Rahim shot in the back or talking on the phone.

“What the video does reveal to us very clearly is that the individual was not on a cell phone, was not shot in the back, and that the information presented by others not on the case was not accurate,” Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts said.

Other faith leaders said the video was not high quality, but that they could tell Rahim was pursuing the Boston police officer and FBI agent who had approached him.

Imam Abdullah Faaruuq of the Mosque for the Praising of Allah called the video “vague,” but said that at least part of the investigators’ account was supported.

This outcome is not a happy coincidence or random gathering of community leaders.  Instead it is the result of years of engagement by the Boston Police with various communities.  It is work that takes time, leads to little immediate results, but is vitally important in the long run for situations such as this.  A video of a portion of this press conference:


You can watch more of Boston Police Commissioner William Evans in the following talk on “Latest Trends in Big City Policing,” recently given at a conference hosted by Rave Mobile Safety. While I should warn you it is not the most succinct presentation, it manages to be both informative and funny.  Commissioner Evans talks a lot about community policing, sharing stories about Occupy Boston, the Marathon Bombings, and sharing his opinion on issues such as the use of body cameras.  He also might mention casing Patriot owner Robert Kraft’s house with the current Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh…


May 19, 2015

Two homeland security – related courses; mostly online

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on May 19, 2015

Two homeland security – related online (mostly) course offerings:

“The Master of Public Health Program at Missouri State University is now offering three graduate certificates in public health.  The three certificates are (1) the Public Health Core, (2) Public Health & Health Administration and (3)  Public Health & Homeland Security.  The latter certificate can be completed online.

The Public Health & Homeland Security certificate was created as a workforce development tool because several county health departments noted a need for people with the background to do emergency planning for public health emergencies.  Each certificate requires five courses (15 graduate hours).

The Public Health & Homeland Security certificate requires 3 courses in public health and 2 courses in homeland security or emergency management.   A full description of all three certificates can be accessed on the program web page at http://www.missouristate.edu/mph/ .  For questions, you may contact David Claborn at davidclaborn[at]missouristate.edu.”

Virginia Tech is offering a “special 7 week summer course …. [It] begins Monday June 1 and ends on July 20 with a full day class on Saturday June 20 at the Alexandria, Va campus site.”

VA tech summer course

February 16, 2015

Update on the course “Central Challenges of American National Security”

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on February 16, 2015

Roughly a month ago I posted on the opportunity to participate in a Massive Open Online Course offered by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, “Central Challenges of American National Security.”

A couple of updates and an opportunity. According to the instructor, Professor Graham Allison, the course will cover: ” In a six-week segment, we introduce the basic concepts from the course (Strategic Options Memos; strategy; the press as a serious complicating factor) and present four cases: Iran’s nuclear challenge (from the perspectives of the US, Iran, and Israel); the rise of China; ISIL/Syria; and NSA/Snowden/WikiLeaks.” So several intersections with homeland security-related topics.

A new instructor has joined Allison and New York Times National Security Correspondent David Sanger. They will be assisted by Professor Derek Reveron, who is on faculty at the U.S. Naval War College.  He specializes in “strategy development, non-state security challenges, intelligence, and U.S. defense policy.”

Finally, an opportunity to take an intensive, Limited Enrollment version of this course. That means “admitted participants will read approximately 75 pages per week, complete assignments including four short policy memos, participate in sections led by the course Teaching Fellows, and engage with fellow learners in moderated discussion forums.” To gain admittance, one has to fill out an online application and submit “a one-page Outline of a Strategic Options Memo responding to the course’s first assignment: “What should the U.S. government do to meet the Iranian nuclear challenge?”” Instructions for completing the Outline are provided on the application page.

If you are interested, the deadline to submit both the application and assignment is 9am EST on Wednesday, February 18. For more information and the application itself, go to: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/HarvardXApp.html


January 14, 2015

A MOOC: Central Challenges of American National Security

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 14, 2015

This is an opportunity not directly related to homeland security.  However, I thought some of topics addressed by this course will be of interest to this blog’s readership.

For all the details, see: https://www.edx.org/course/challenges-of-american-security-harvardx-hks211-2x#.VLcv-SvF-Sr

The instructors are impressive.  A former DOD official, and more importantly, the man who built the current Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  And of course a major New York Times  reporter.

You can audit this course for free.  For a small fee, you can get a certificate  that indicates you did the work. Unfortunately, you are not going to get “Harvard” credit…

About this Course

How can Iran be stopped from getting a nuclear bomb—negotiations, sanctions, or military action? As a participant in this course, you will advise the president in deciding whether, and how, the U.S. should act. Once you’ve made your assessment, you will move on to wrestle with other scenarios preoccupying policy makers. Between the Assad regime and ISIS, civilians in Syria and Iraq face unimaginable atrocities. Should the U.S. intervene? China’s rise is rattling capitalist economies and a half-century of Pacific peace. What counterbalancing actions should Washington take? Leaks are a fact of life — but why do they happen? Who gets them, and why? Should journalists publish or withhold them? Does legal accountability lie with the leaker—or the journalist?

This seven-week course casts you as advisors on the hardest decisions any president has to make. We will go behind the veil to see the dynamic between the press and the U.S. government, to explore these dilemmas. We will also have to contend with the reality that government secrets rarely stay that way. Participants will learn to navigate the political landscape of an era in which private remarks become viral tweets, and mistakes by intelligence agencies become front-page stories.

Weekly assignments require strategic thinking: Analyzing dynamics of challenges and developing strategies for addressing them.  Students will learn to summarize their analyses in a succinct “Strategic Options Memo,” combining careful analysis and strategic imagination with the necessity to communicate to major constituencies in order to sustain public support. They will also examine how policymaking is affected by constant, public analysis of government deliberations.


January 12, 2015

George Washington University creates Center for Cyber and Homeland Security

Filed under: Cybersecurity,Education — by Christopher Bellavita on January 12, 2015

From the web: http://homelandsecurity.gwu.edu/george-washington-university-establishes-new-gw-center-cyber-and-homeland-security

January 12, 2015

The George Washington University establishes new GW Center for Cyber and Homeland Security

WASHINGTON—Today, The George Washington University announced the establishment of the GW Center for Cyber and Homeland Security (CCHS), which integrates and builds upon the activities of two existing policy centers within the George Washington University: the Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) and the GW Cybersecurity Initiative. This new Center will build on the longstanding track record of these two entities and continue to engage in policy-relevant research and analysis on critical issues and challenges related to cybersecurity, counterterrorism, and homeland security.

The new Center will be governed by a Board of Directors and a Policy Advisory Committee, and will continue HSPI’s longstanding Senior Fellows program. It will carry out its work through four standing task forces that will shape the Center’s research and policy agenda and whose members will be drawn largely from the ranks of its governance committees and Senior Fellows:

Counterterrorism and Intelligence Task Force
Cybersecurity Task Force
Homeland Security Strategies and Emerging Threats Task Force
Preparedness and Infrastructure Resilience Task Force.

The Center is also establishing a corporate membership program, to provide a means for companies with interests in these areas to support the work of the Center and participate in its activities, including through events developed with the specific interests of its corporate members in mind.

The Center will operate under the continued direction of Frank Cilluffo, a former Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, and Christian Beckner, a former senior staffer with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee [who also started Homeland Security Watch].

The goal of these efforts is to establish and strengthen the re-named Center as a leading venue for independent and non-partisan policy analysis and research on homeland security, counterterrorism, and cybersecurity issues; and to provide valuable insights and context to key stakeholders in government, the private sector, and the media.

November 18, 2014

Seeing something about school shootings on Yik Yak and saying something

Filed under: Education,Social Media — by Christopher Bellavita on November 18, 2014

“Just saw a sketchy looking dude load some assault rifles into his car on the walk to campus, so that’s chill.”

Last week a friend sat waiting at the airport for her flight. To pass the time she checked out some of the posts on Yik Yak.

Her son attends a university on the other side of the country, and sometimes she skims the Yik Yak posts to see what’s happening on her son’s campus. It’s a way to get a sense of the anonymous culture college marketing departments don’t talk about much. Or at all.

“Hey that’s not even something to joke about. This better be a joke.”

When my friend saw the assault rifle post, her first thought was it’s a prank. She looked at more of the replies:

“That’s not funny. Someone should call public safety.”

“Call the cops. Don’t play around with this.”

She looked at a few posts on other topics, but her mind would not let go of the image of a “sketchy dude” putting weapons in his car.

She sent a copy of the text to her husband.

“I just saw this on Yik Yak. It’s 30 minutes old. Probably nothing. I’m at the airport. Do you have contact information for the university police? Again, it’s probably nothing.”

“OK everybody, don’t get your panties in a bunch. There’s nothing illegal about putting rifles in your car. Lighten up.”

A few more minutes went by. No word from her husband.

“There really probably isn’t anything to this. Just a bad joke. Besides, the police probably monitor Yik Yak. I’m pretty sure they’re on top of it.”

“You can’t joke about this. It’s not funny. I’m down voting you.”

“I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t go to class today. Just stay in my room.”

“Somebody should tell the police.”

My friend thought, “The chances this is real are practically zero. It’s college kids. Besides, I’m hundreds of miles away. I feel helpless.”

She knew she wasn’t helpless.

“I realized I could do something,” she told me. “I used my phone to look up the number for campus security and called them. I just didn’t want to take the chance. I told them I was a parent and told them what I saw on Yik Yak.”

“It’s probably nothing,” I told them, wondering why I kept repeating that.

“Relax everyone. My guess is it’s the ROTC cadets storing their weapons after yesterday’s Veterans Day ceremony.”

“This is scary. How come the cops don’t know about this?”

“Assault what?” asked the person on the other end of my friend’s phone call.

“Assault weapons, assault rifles. Something like that. I don’t recall exactly. It’s probably nothing. Don’t you guys monitor Yik Yak?”

“We don’t approve of Yik Yak,” the person said.

“I don’t approve of it either,” said my friend, “but you know… ‘see something, say something?’ I just saw something on Yik Yak and I’m telling you.”

“OK,” the person responded. “Thanks for letting us know.”

“Is that it?” my friend thought. “They didn’t even ask my name.”

A few minutes later she boarded her plane, feeling surprisingly pleased that she’d acted, rather than waited for someone else to act.

“I knew it was probably nothing. But if it turned out to be real, and I hadn’t done anything,….”

She did not complete her sentence.

Yik Yak is a geo-fenced, micro-blog version of Twitter. It’s a social media (some say an anti-social media) smartphone app that allows people in a geographically constrained area to anonymously communicate with other nearby people. I’m not sure how constrained the area is. I’ve read it’s anywhere from a 1.5 to 10 mile radius.

Yik Yak appears to be intended for use primarily by college students. It blocks anyone from posting if they are near a high school or middle school.

Sometimes the posts are amusing:

— “There is no reason to tailgate me when I’m going 50 in a 35. And those flashing lights on top of your car look ridiculous.”

— “Sister: Where is Nicaragua? Me: Central America. Sister: So like near Kansas? Me: I see poles and body glitter in your future.”

— “FUN FACT: If you take out your intestines and lay them end to end, you will die.”

Other times, the posts are ugly: Racist Posts On Yik Yak Prompt Student Protest At Colgate University

One writer believes Yik Yak is “the most dangerous app I’ve ever seen.”  Another author suggests Why Your College Campus Should Ban Yik Yak.  A third article writes about Yik Yak as A Weapon That Should Be Treated Like One, describing it as a “bulletin board for bomb threats.” (At least two people have been arrested for using the app to make bomb threats. Yik Yak gave law enforcement the names of the people who made both threats.)

The application also has its defenders. Here are some comments in response to the charge that Yik Yak is dangerous:

— “I find your view on Yik Yak very cynical. I hardly ever see hateful yaks, and if I do, they are gone within seconds because people down vote them.”

— “Yik Yak builds strong community and opens up honest discussions. It has the potential for some abuse but overall I think it is a fun, brilliant app.”

–“Anonymity is the only thing we have left to guarantee our first amendment, sad but true. Yeah there will be people that will abuse it, but we have to take the bad with the good in the ideal of freedom.”

My friend’s plane landed a few hours later. When she turned her phone back on she had a voice mail message.

“This is Lieutenant [—-] at the [—- ] University Police Department. Please call me when you get this message.”

She called the number and spoke to the police officer. The department checked the Yik Yak post about the assault rifles and, based on the post, conducted a sweep of the entire campus. The city police checked the neighborhood surrounding the campus.

They did not find anything.

Was the post a hoax? An inappropriate attempt at humor? A warning that disrupted a potentially significant event?

It was probably nothing.

Like it always is.


September 23, 2014

Six master’s degree theses

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 23, 2014

Here are the titles – and abstracts – of six master’s degree theses recently completed at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security.  The theses will be publicly available in 4 to 6 weeks.  If you’re interested in seeing one or more of them, please email me (my first and last name [at] gmail.com) and I’ll put you in touch with the author.

Farewell To Arms: A Plan For Evaluating The 2001 Authorization For Use Of Military Force And Its Alternatives

On September 14, 2001, Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Over the past 13 years, the AUMF has served as the primary legal foundation for the use of force against terrorist organizations and other counterterrorist operations. Since its passage, threats facing the United States have evolved and new groups have emerged. Yet, Congress has failed to reexamine the statute. This thesis examines whether the AUMF serves as the proper foundation for addressing current terrorist threats or whether an alternative legal tool is more appropriate. … [The] thesis … [analyzes] the evolution of terrorist threats, constitutional concerns, the consequences of altering the legal structure upon which national counterterrorism strategies rely, international legality, and precedent. Ultimately, [the] thesis recommends that Congress sunset the AUMF and implement a tailored approach to force authorization – one that balances constitutional protections and security, while providing a foundation for crafting future force authorizations.


Now Is The Time For CVE-2. Updating And Implementing A Revised U.S. National Strategy To Counter Violent Extremism

The United States (U.S.) national strategy countering violent extremism (CVE) has yet to be updated and currently does not provide the necessary national framework to best combat self-radicalization and violent extremism (VE) in the United States. … “What are the necessary and effective components of the national U.S. CVE strategy that best prevent self-radicalization and VE in the United States?” This research examined the concepts and strategies surrounding extremism and self-radicalization in the U.S., the United Kingdom … and Australia. … One .. finding was the identification of overarching elements that, if implemented, would increase the effectiveness and applicability of the U.S. CVE strategy. These elements include: 1) identifying the federal agency in charge of administering the U.S. CVE strategy, 2) developing a more robust and actionable national CVE framework, 3) refocusing the federal government on support and not local engagement of CVE, 4) requiring all CVE related terms be defined in every document, and 5) requiring regular evaluations and updates of the U.S. CVE strategy. ….


Opaque Communities: A Framework For Assessing Potential Homeland Security Threats From Voids On The Map

Opaque communities are groups of two or more families or cohabitation partnerships that are inaccessible to non-members, affiliates, or associates either through explicit or implied restriction of member interaction outside of the group. [These communities] confound homeland security situational awareness and integration efforts, generating … threat perceptions that often escalate into governmental interventions and violent confrontations. Opaque groups’ disinclination to interact with the surrounding public stymies governmental situational awareness capabilities necessary for homeland security functions, prompting stakeholders to embrace a default tendency to perceive threat streams emanating from such groups and employ a respective confrontational posture. Concurrently, authorities have repeatedly attributed member’s individual crimes and discreet instances of illicit behavior to the entire community, creating self-imposed barriers to viable alternative investigative and enforcement options. Governmental failures to communicate with and effectively address past incidents involving opaque communities have led to tactical response disasters. Future inabilities to foster contact with such groups could present grave, unforeseen challenges to homeland security and surrounding community resiliency efforts. This thesis explores whether governmental entities [should] adopt a common set of operational assumptions regarding threats emanating from opaque communities and, if so, whether alternative interactional frameworks for integrating such communities into homeland security efforts are available.


Should We Stay Or Should We Go Now?—The Physical, Economic, Geopolitical, Social And Psychological Factors Of Recovery From Catastrophic Disaster

“Should we continue to build there?” is a question asked after other past disasters; it is especially more poignant as local, state and federal governments deal with pre-disaster mitigation funding and post-disaster emergency management funding issues. The goal of this research [was] to develop a way of answering that question through a better understanding of the social, economic, and cultural problems, and opportunities of rebuilding. As a result, shortcomings in the assumptions of existing response and recovery plans can be identified, and current community planning can consider future catastrophic events. Through pre-identification of physical, social, and political limitations other communities have faced, pro-active land use, response and recovery planning decisions could be implemented that increase the chance that communities can successfully emerge from disaster. This study investigates examples of past catastrophic disasters and the positive and negative experiences as those communities struggled to return to normalcy. The end result of the research is an assessment that identifies the economic, geopolitical, and social factors of recovery following a catastrophic disaster. ….

Immigration Adjudication Reform: The Case For Automation

A bill that has passed the United States Senate, S. 744, proposes a “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” (LPI) status and a “path to Citizenship” for an estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the Agency that would be responsible for processing applications for LPI status or other immigration benefits authorized by immigration reform legislation or administrative relief programs introduced by the White House. Current Agency receipts of applications for immigration benefits range between 6 and 7 million per year. Depending on the eligibility criteria for new immigration benefits, Agency receipts could triple. The operational impact of these legislative or executive actions on USCIS could bear significant national security risks. This study evaluates whether the implementation of automated tools would mitigate external operational impacts on USCIS. Two existing automated systems are studied. The Secure Flight system, operated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Automated Continuous Evaluation System (ACES) as utilized in the Joint Reform Effort (JRE) were selected for their complexity, maturity, and similarity to immigration adjudications. This analysis demonstrates that automated tools can improve the quality of immigration adjudications by supporting a comprehensive assessment, including accuracy, timeliness, completeness and validity. Further, automation would improve the Agency’s operational responsiveness when external factors such as policy changes affect workloads. These factors thereby improve national security by supporting the Agency’s mission to uphold the integrity of the immigration system and to prevent and intercept illicit actors from entering or remaining in the United States.


Eyes Of The Storm: Can Fusion Centers Play A Crucial Role During The Response Phase Of Natural Disasters Through Collaborative Relationships With Emergency Operations Centers

Through the maturation of the national network of fusion centers, processes, and capabilities originally designed to detect and thwart terrorist attacks are now applied to disaster responses. The fusion process, which involves the synthesis and analysis of streams of data, can create incident specific intelligence. The sharing of this information can enhance the operating picture that is critical to key decision makers and the discipline of emergency management. This thesis examined three case studies of fusion center disaster responses through a collaborative-based analytical framework. The resulting analysis of the case studies identified the crucial role played by fusion centers in responding to disaster events in a collaborative effort with emergency operations centers. This thesis concludes that fusion centers offer the greatest impact through enabling information sharing throughout the response phase. The specific benefits of the sharing of information directly influence executive briefings and the deployment of resources. This thesis also modeled a collaborative response. The research determined that the depth and breadth of these relationships involving cooperative responses must be proportionate to the incident and include a level of redundancy. Through a system design model, over connectivity through efficiency was shown to increase the likelihood of fracturing cooperative relationships.



September 16, 2014

Social identity theory and homeland security

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on September 16, 2014

What do these people have in common?

– Unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally, and the people who don’t want them in this country.
– People opposing the militarization of police, and the people who don’t believe militarization is all that bad.
– People who don’t mind submitting to TSA searches, and people who think it’s a waste of resources and liberty.
– People who think NSA surveillance is a national abomination, and people who believe if you haven’t done anything wrong you shouldn’t mind government having access to your emails and phone calls.

One answer to the question is they are all members of groups whose behaviors can be explained and predicted more effectively by their identities as members of groups, rather than by trying to understand the behaviors of the individuals in each of those groups.

Social identity theory is the name given to this way of understanding why people do what they do.

Social Identity Theory (SIT) has been around since the 1970s. I learned about it a few years ago from colleagues I teach with. I’m still not sure what I think about it. I wonder about its predictive and operational value.  But I do know that a third to a half of the practitioners who graduate from our program think there’s something to SIT worth paying attention to.

SIT is “a theory that predicts certain intergroup behaviors on the basis of perceived group status differences, the perceived legitimacy and stability of those status differences, and the perceived ability to move from one group to another.”

According to an article by Ellemers and Haslam in the Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology, the core premise of social identity theory “is that in many social situations people think of themselves and others as group members, rather than as unique individuals. The theory argues that social identity underpins intergroup behavior and sees this as qualitatively distinct from interpersonal behavior…. [The theory] focuses on social context as the key determinant of social perceptions and social behaviors.”

You can read more about SIT here and here. Or you can watch a 40 minute lecture here.

But why would anyone in homeland security want to learn anything about social identity theory?

Two of my colleagues – David Brannan and Anders Strindberg – argue in their book A Practitioner’s Way Forward: Terrorism Analysis that terrorism research has been conducted without much attention to analytical rigor. They believe SIT can help provide that rigor.

They also offer, through the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security, a self-study course titled Understanding Terrorism: A Social Science View on Terrorism. It describes SIT and illustrates — among other things – how it can be used to “provide nuance, depth, and rigor to your studies of religious terrorism.”

There is no cost for the course, but registration is required. You can register at this link: http://www.chds.us/?special/info&pgm=Noncredit.

According to the CHDS website, the course is “available to local, tribal, state and federal U.S. government officials; members of the U.S. military; private-sector homeland security managers; homeland security researchers or educators; and students enrolled in homeland security degree programs.”

August 18, 2014

Hero or Victim: Encouraging Self-Dispatching of Off-Duty Police Officers to Active Shooter Incidents

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security,Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on August 18, 2014

Today’s post was written by Matthew Hanley.

Officer Smith receives the call he has been dreading his entire career, an active shooter at the local elementary school.

The 911 dispatcher provides the only description available of the shooter – a white male wearing a black shirt.  Officer Smith arrives in just under 2 minutes.

As he exits the vehicle, he hears a series of shots ring out.  He makes the decision to enter the school alone.  Down the first hallway he encounters the gunman – white male, black shirt, handgun.  He instinctively fires 3 rounds and the suspect falls to the floor.

As Officer Smith approaches the suspect, he recognizes the man as an off-duty police officer.

Shots continue to ring out in the gymnasium.


This is precisely the scenario that could play out across the country if a new mobile phone application called Hero911 becomes widely adopted.

Hero911 is meant to reduce law enforcement response time to active shooting incidents at schools.  Schools purchase a service called SchoolGuard ($2500 setup fee and $99/mo).  Police officers voluntarily download the free Hero911 “social protection network” application.  (By the way, the phrase “social protection network” is trademarked.)

When an active shooter incident occurs, the school activates SchoolGuard (also trademarked) which immediately notifies nearby police officers, both on-duty and off-duty, of the incident.

(The Hero911 app is clearly meant to be used only by sworn police officers or “a qualified retired law enforcement officer.”  But one of the people who recommends the app on the Hero911 website — “To all sheepdogs, the Hero911™ Network can save lives, please put the app on your phone, I did.” —  is Lt Col (retired) Dave Grossman.  Grossman is a former Army Ranger, teacher, consultant, and author of On Killing, On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs, and other publications.  He does not appear to be an active or retired police officer.  One wonders how many other knowledgeable, experienced, and weapons-smart non-police officers might also “put the app on” their phone.)


Cleary seconds count when responding to active shooter incidents and law enforcement agencies should be exploring ways to expedite that response.  But these types of incidents are extremely chaotic and the response must be conducted in a coordinated manner utilizing best practices.

Encouraging the self-dispatch of off-duty officers is potentially dangerous.

Without the ability to communicate via radio, off-duty officers are not able to receive accurate suspect/incident information or able to communicate their location to other responders.  Without a uniform or clothing identifying the individual as a police officer, the likelihood of the off-duty officer being mistaken for a suspect is real and potentially deadly.

Hero911 does briefly address these concerns – somewhat –  on their website (FAQs).  Here’s an example (my emphasis):

Officers without proper training, skill and identification should not respond, but remain vigilant after receiving the alert. ….All laws, home agency policies and protocols must be followed.

Officer safety is a major concern during these catastrophes. Please consider purchasing a well-stocked “Go-Bag” for your personal vehicle. Hats and vests with bold POLICE markings are strongly recommended.

Applications like Hero911 are well intentioned and could potentially reduce response times to active shootings by creating a direct link between school officials and nearby police officers.

However, before law enforcement agencies endorse the use of such applications, policies and training should be developed to address the self-dispatching of off-duty officers.

Additional information can be found at www.hero911.org.


Matthew Hanley is a senior executive in a state police agency.  The views expressed in this post are Hanley’s; they do not represent the opinions of any agency or organization.

July 10, 2014

Needing your help: Core readings in homeland security

Filed under: Education — by Philip J. Palin on July 10, 2014

I have been asked to prepare a reading list for a graduate symposium in homeland security.  The purpose of the symposium (as I understand it) is to facilitate a meaningful introduction to the field by those approaching the end of graduate studies in other fields: especially law, international affairs, public administration, business, and public health.

I perceive the founders of the symposium have at least two goals: First, to provide the graduate students with sufficient grounding in homeland security that they can reasonably assess their interest in homeland security-related careers and, if interested, have a head-start in engaging and networking within homeland security.  A second goal may involve offering homeland security some non-traditional, even provocative insights emerging from this interdisciplinary consideration.

Especially given these goals the symposium does not seek to “teach” as much as “stimulate”.  The reading list should helpfully suggest major issues and trends.  It should prompt conversation and critique by soon-to-be PhDs, lawyers, and executives.  It is a foundation more than a framing.

It has not yet been finalized, but the symposium will probably meet once every 90 days for roughly six to seven hours of sustained engagement. Four sessions are anticipated.  There will be the opportunity for additional informal engagement, online and otherwise.

I have decided the reading list should be available free online.  I am inclined to give attention to the unfolding nature of homeland security law, policy, and strategy since 9/11.   I would prefer to have no more than ten core readings.  Right now I have fifteen and am tempted to list even more.

Readings that I most regret leaving off the list include the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, some of the better (and worst) Presidential Policy Directives, the OLC memorandum on “contemplated lethal operations”, Federal District Court decisions in Klayman v. Obama and ACLU v. Clapper, and several of the Federalist Papers at about which point I lose all restraint, the universe of reading expanding quickly into quantum and complexity theory.

What else would you insist be on the list?  What would you remove from my list without a second thought?

Potentially helpful to persuading me — and probably a subtext for the missive below — I am a product and practitioner of Higher Criticism.  The written word is sacred and mysterious, context-sensitive, layered, open to reason, enlightened by analogy, beyond full understanding while richly rewarding affirmatively critical engagement.

Thanks for your help.

March 25, 2014

Homeland Security reading list – update

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 25, 2014

The Center for Homeland Defense and Security website keeps track of the books used in its master’s degree program.  The list is updated each time a new course begins.

Here is a link to the current book list: https://www.chds.us/?hsbooks

As the screenshot below shows, you can click the link at the upper right of the web page and see the books used in each of ten courses during the past two years.  Click on each book to see the publishing information. (And, in case you are wondering, books are only part of the program’s reading requirements.)

chds reading list March 24, 2014

March 18, 2014

Five homeland security thesis abstracts

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 18, 2014

I had the opportunity this weekend to read five engaging theses, written by people who will graduate next week from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security master’s degree program.  I’m posting the thesis abstracts below.  The documents will be publicly available in about 6 weeks.  But if you are interested in seeing the thesis before then, please email me (my first and last name [at] gmail dot com), and I’ll put you in touch with the author.  


In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration will open national airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAS). Nonmilitary uses for UAS range from agriculture services to entertainment purposes, and include tasks as mundane as inspecting gutters and as consequential as fighting fires.

Outside of the safety issues that accompany many breakthrough technologies, the effort to integrate UAS into national airspace is enmeshed in political, legal and economic policies that require careful navigation. Factors like cybersecurity and technological advancements will continue to influence the way UAS can be used.

This thesis provides an orientation to the key considerations in UAS integration. Policy recommendations include early stakeholder engagement; a national data protection law; no-fly zones around private residences; clearly identifying UAS operators and owners; non-lethal payloads in national airspace; adapting current surveillance laws to UAS; a single, national privacy law to facilitate the free flow of commerce and coordination across state lines; a federal office in charge of monitoring data privacy; accountability of data collectors; limited exemptions for activities conducted in the interest of national security or to protect life and property; and managing cybersecurity risks.


The study of a law enforcement response to a national movement is a homeland security issue. How America polices its population establishes the benchmark for how it treats the world and is worthy of exploration. What can the experiences of four major U.S. cities, in their response to the Occupy Movement, tell us about using emergent strategies for policing protest in the twenty-first century?

In the fall of 2011, the Occupy Movement protests swept across the United States in a matter of weeks. Activists demonstrated against income inequality and the state of the economy, and they established camps in major urban areas, occupying public spaces.

I conducted case studies of New York City; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; and Dallas, Texas and analyzed the results. That analysis revealed common themes, including a lack of negotiated management, restricting access to traditionally open public spaces by the police and the use of emergent practice in the complex adaptive environment of demonstrations. From this analysis, I am able to provide strategic recommendations for city and police leaders in dealing with protests in the twenty-first century utilizing a sense-making framework that will assist leaders in strategic planning for protests for large and small cities alike.


The United States defines terrorism through the lists it maintains identifying those who are engaged in, support, and/or facilitate terrorism. One such list is the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. Since the FTO designation process occurs without the organization’s knowledge or ability to challenge the evidence relied upon, classified information is used in making the determination, and judicial oversight is limited, concerns have been expressed that the Executive Branch has too much discretion in this process. The concerns are exacerbated by the perception that political motivations dominate the decision-making process.

Using content analysis, the FTO list is analyzed using a quantitative and qualitative approach. First, the terrorist designation processes used in allied countries is examined, and the list is analyzed reviewing FTO decisions made before and after 9/11. Through an analysis of the annual State Department country reports describing the FTOs, the non-statutory factors that influence FTO decisions emerge, and include whether a group attacked Israel or other allied nation of strategic interest to the United States, attacked the United States or its citizens, or is affiliated with al Qaeda. These non-statutory factors and their application to U.S. counterterrorism strategy, is how the United States defines terrorism at any point in time.


The subject of this project is the state of fire service substance-testing policy nationwide, and what it should be. This thesis analyzed 12 substance-testing policies from fire departments across the country. The project looked at the language fire departments were using to convey the intent, process, and consequences of their policy. Common themes emerged as each policy was examined. However, upon closer examination, more inconsistency was found than uniformity. Differences ranged from policy purposes to prevailing guidance to types of substances tested for, threshold levels, and employee treatment; the greatest difference was found in the terminology. As a result of the analysis, this thesis identifies best practices and required components of a standardized national substance-testing policy, and asserts that such a national model should be implemented.


There is a great opportunity for collaborative learning when agencies conduct emergency preparedness exercises together. If different members of the community contribute to the development of these exercises, then this learning benefits the entire population. As it stands, preparedness exercises are being conducted with minimal regard to recommendations from previous exercises and real-world events. Along with the incorporation of intelligence into these exercises, the objectives should promote a more inclusive design process based on focused relevance, encouraging agencies to view themselves more as members of the greater community rather than individual entities.

Terrorist organizations learn from past failures as well as successes, and emergency responders should strive to parallel this learning in order to develop tactical improvements. Emergency responders need to promote the idea of intelligence-driven exercise design in order to support community resilience through collaborative training. Municipalities should spearhead this effort, supported financially by the private sector. With this fusion of intelligence and collaborative exercise design, we can learn from the fires of yesterday and prepare for the emergencies of tomorrow.

March 5, 2014

A Video Library from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 5, 2014

In this quiet space between the end of Downton Abbey and baseball’s opening day, it may be worth your time to peruse the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s video library on YouTubehttp://www.youtube.com/user/npsCHDS

It is a treasure trove of homeland security education, containing everything from lectures to faculty media appearances to discussions with students about their thesis work.

Among the jems is the video based on Chris’ blog post from last year “Lilacs out of the dead land: 9 lessons to be learned from last week.”



Another is a discussion with Cynthia Renaud about her thesis “Making Sense at the Edge of Chaos: A Framework for Effective Initial Response Efforts to Large-Scale Incidents.”



January 30, 2014

The mitigation message

East Rivers Elementary

Cobb County elementary school children sleeping Tuesday night in the gym

Last Tuesday my train pulled into Union Station, Washington DC, shortly before noon.  The station and surrounding city were unusually quiet.  The Federal Office of Personnel Management had given most of its employees liberal leave to stay home.   Most area schools followed this lead.

On Capitol Hill — where I still had some meetings — the snow did not really begin until about 2:00 and was not quite as bad as predicted even into the height of the typical rush hour, which given the OPM decision had much more rush than usual.

By the next morning there was nearly 4 inches of snow at Reagan Airport and over 8 at Dulles.  Wednesday got underway with official delays.

Still some were inclined to second-guess the Tuesday mitigation decision made with the best possible information Monday night.

I hope the second-guessers are giving close attention to the more recent news out of Atlanta.

Even at dawn Tuesday, January 28 the best information available to Georgia decision-makers — very much including the general public — was that the worst weather would track south and east of Atlanta.  Beginning between about 7 and 8 that morning the best information began to shift.  By 10 it was snowing in Bartow County on the northwestern edge of metro Atlanta.  By 11 it was snowing hard and icing.  At 11:23 Cobb County Schools (along the Northwest Atlanta beltway) closed and began busing students home.  At 12:15 Georgia DOT suggested private-sector workers head home.

By 1:00 many Atlanta highways were grid-locked, more the result of sudden volume than — yet — because of the weather.  (Should bring back unpleasant memories of similar events in Chicago and DC in recent years.)  As some of you know, traffic is not an unusual problem in Atlanta, even in fragrant and sunny springtime.

At 1:55 the Governor declared a State of Emergency; the most immediate effect being to pour state employees onto already packed roads.  Across the United States we are predisposed to evacuations.  It is a bad — sometimes, someplaces deadly — habit.

By mid-afternoon the snow and especially ice were adding to the problems.  You have probably seen the videos.  There were several hundred vehicle accidents just in the Atlanta area.

On Wednesday many Tuesday afternoon commuters were still stuck in their cars.  Some had abandoned their vehicles.  In several cases school buses were forced to retreat back to classrooms.  Several hundred children — the numbers are still unclear — spent the night in their schools. (See picture above.) My ten-year-old nephew got home from school, but neither of his parents could.  Shane spent the night at the neighbors.

There will be after-action analyses. There will be studies.  There will be hearings.  There will be blame-gaming. There will be lessons-learned.

What I hope someone will declare clearly and well is that 1) there are many things we cannot accurately predict, 2) especially in unpredictable contexts innate vulnerabilities are exposed, and 3) in densely networked environments, like cities, these vulnerabilities can sometimes meet and mate, propagating suddenly and prolifically.

So… for a whole host of risks we are wise to invest in mitigation and to keep in mind that what will always seem an over-investment before will likely pay profitable dividends after.

This principle applies well beyond the weather, including water systems, supply chains, fuel networks, bridges, and much, much more.

November 12, 2013

How Australians are encouraged to learn first aid

Filed under: Education,Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on November 12, 2013

How do you get people to pay attention to preparedness?

Here’s how the Australian Red Cross is trying to get people to learn first aid.

The first video is 1:27. The second one is 2:04. (You might not want to watch the second one if you’re eating.)

And yes, that’s really what Australians sound like.


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